Stadium reality check?

The buoyant incoming Cornish Pirates chairman Ian Connell has called for a new stadium in time for the 2016-17 season.

In April Cornwall Council took up an option to keep land as public open space which forms part of the area at Langarth which has planning permission as a stadium.

Councillors making the decision to do this were advised that if they exercised this option the land must be kept as public open space and would not be available for the stadium.

However the developers Inox claim all that is needed is additional retail planning permission to bring together funding for the stadium. Have they identified an alternative site on which they will be applying for planning permission?

If not – and if the Cornwall Council briefing is an accurate statement of the contractual position – the land will be public open space laid out as playing fields and will not form part of any stadium.

Housing allocations and localism

Cornwall Council is consulting on its allocation policies for social housing. I think changes are needed to the draft policies, two of which are described here.

The first is the proposed downgrading of homelessness so that it would be viewed as a non-urgent housing need. Some fellow Truro City councillors were willing to endorse this proposal; including one who this weekend retweeted a protest about spikes in a sheltered area outside a London property with some comments about showing humanity to people in need. Spiked pavements are an unnecessary hazard for anybody; but frankly keeping pavements free of spikes for rough sleepers belongs with ‘let them eat cake’ in the book of quotations from people who just don’t get it. When I come across people sleeping rough in Truro I call the local helpline to try and put them in touch with an outreach worker.

I can’t see the draft housing allocation scheme helping Cornwall Council’s avowed efforts to reduce rough sleeping; and it will obviously add to pressure on hostel places if it takes longer for people to be offered a tenancy.

The second draft policy which I think needs reconsidered would mean that a person who is in urgent housing need but has behaved unacceptably would be unable to apply to the housing register for two years, as would those associated with someone who has behaved unacceptably. Many residents welcome robust action in relation to issues such as noise and drug dealing, but this can be taken effectively without barring individuals and families from having their urgent housing needs met. Cornwall Housing’s wide definition of ‘unacceptable’ behaviour includes issues such as rent arrears. Government policy changes mean that there are growing numbers of tenants in Cornwall facing housing costs increased beyond the reach of their household income who risk eviction. Cornwall Council avowedly has a ‘spend to save’ approach; but refusing to rehouse people in urgent housing need will inevitably make it more likely not less that people will make increased demands on other services. Nor is it the role of the housing authority to force people to make a choice between their urgent housing needs being met and continuing to associate with a loved one some of whose actions have been deemed socially ‘unacceptable’.

Truro and South West Water

South West Water’s works in Truro centre are nearing completion but it has been a long haul.

Earlier this week it was reported that a workman had suffered severe burns after a power cable was drilled into; this incident is being investigated.

The approach of South West Water seemed positive as they engaged with the community to schedule the works. Nevertheless together with other roadworks the negative impacts on trade in Truro are obvious. The full extent of road closures required was not made known by South West Water at the outset. Working with Totally Truro has been vital but the Business Improvement District has a business plan of events and actions in Truro; reacting to the impacts of the road and water works is essential but it also takes time and energy out of these positive community activities.

The SWW works were and are needed but by themselves they do not address the capacity issues Truro faces given the number of planning permissions. On a visit to the Newham treatment works councillors were advised expanding the works – as SWW intends – would increase flood risk.

Most people locally want to see reduced flood risk and cleaner rivers; instead the Fal shell fisheries rating is soon to be downgraded. On Friday some councillors including myself were sent a SWW summary of the current position not least in relation to this downgrading. The summary confirms that in the last year there were two SWW incidents taken up by the Environment Agency – one leading to a written warning, and the other being considered for possible enforcement action.

Some local issues such as river pollution from old mine workings may be difficult to address. With political will the other issues – run off from agricultural land and better arrangements for sewage treatment – can be tackled.

The draft local plan (PP6) says that developments in Truro/Roseland which increase flood risk will not be permitted. It is vital this policy is applied to South West Water’s wholly unacceptable proposals to knowingly increase flood risk at Newham.

Disproportional nightmare scenario

There are two weeks left to comment on the Cornwall Local Plan.

Its important Cornwall Council knows what people think, although the way they design documents and response forms isn’t always inviting.

I sent my response this weekend, the gist of which is that the draft local plan is a nightmare scenario, rather than a plan for sustainable development.

One issue is the fiction that the development proposals and housing allocations are ‘proportional’.

4 per cent of Cornwall’s population live in Truro/Kenwyn. In 2013 Cornwall Council proposed 2,200 new dwellings in Truro/Kenwyn, ie 5 per cent of the development planned by 2030.

The latest draft plan proposes increased housing numbers, allocating a whopping 16 per cent of this proposed increase to Truro. No rhyme or reason, just the fictional claim the proposed allocations are ‘proportional’ alongside the equally bogus claim that the distribution of numbers in the plan supports Cornwall’s dispersed settlement pattern.

The LEP

Cornwall Local Economic Partnership has recently published its Strategic Economic Plan and Local Growth Fund bid.

The ‘Truro Western Corridor’ scheme (which forms part of the Local Growth Fund bid) includes some improvements which are needed on a very congested route near Cornwall’s largest hospital.

However, the LEP webpage with these two documents says: ‘Please note the final version of the SEP and LGF are currently in the design stage but the text and content will not change.’ 

That’s more than unfortunate as the Local Growth Fund Bid – which is after all a bid to spend public money – contains some bogus numbers in relation to Truro. (And in any case surely even after printing they could easily correct genuine errors online.)

Cornwall Council is currently consulting on the draft local plan including ‘The provision of around 3000 dwellings up to 2030′ in Truro/Kenwyn. This is an increase compared to the earlier proposal of 2200 dwellings.

But the LEP Local Growth Fund Bid instead claims: ‘Truro Local Plan proposals Houses: 4,500′.

Apparently traffic isn’t the only thing that might speed up if the funding is secured; the LEP claims the proposal ‘Accelerates the delivery of 1,127 houses and unlocks private sector investment to deliver the infrastructure to support a further 2,677 new homes to the north of the A390.’

Reality check anyone? In relation to Cornwall Council’s current consultation on increasing housing numbers from 2200 to 3000, just under 3200 dwellings already have planning permission in Truro/Kenwyn including 1615 north of the A390.

Maybe the wrong numbers are typos, but if so I hope the LEP got their financial figures right.

I heard back from someone at Cornwall Council about this, who said 4500 was a mistake, but suggested the other figures are correct, which clearly they can’t be.

‘and you caring enough to pay for it’

This is a quick post to note that the NPPF enables ‘locations of deprivation which may benefit from planned remedial action’ to be identified in local plans.

In Cornwall, the draft strategic policies of the local plan allow for this possibility, but PP6 does not; despite the fact that the economic data shows that – statistically – there are three deprived areas in Truro/Kenwyn, and in February 2013 there were 777 children assessed as living in poverty.

In the context of Cornwall, Truro has a reputation for being able to pay our own way; but we do need strategic and targeted community investment.

‘And thinking how little you cared for the cost, and you caring enough to pay for it’ Ezra Pound

‘bring out number weight and measure’

The housing SHMNA on which Cornwall Council has based its latest draft housing proposal refers to two independent economic assessments which forecast 30,800 or 39,700 additional jobs in Cornwall by 2031; this is alongside the fact that the data used shows that 17,400 jobs have been lost in Cornwall since 2007. However, without explanation the draft local plan now out for consultation has slashed jobs projections from 50,000 to 25,000 compared to the 2013 consultation draft – this would mean net growth of 7,600 jobs in Cornwall by 2030 compared to jobs in 2007. In contrast, the LEP draft economic strategy projects 47,500 new jobs, but this number is not based on any independent economic assessment – it is based on their assumption that jobs will grow in tandem with housing based on Cornwall Council’s consultation proposal.

Retail and employment space projections in the draft local plan are based on studies completed alongside the now abolished RSS projections of population growth. Cornwall Council decided recently to update its retail study, but the latest draft local plan carries forward outdated office assumptions. Look around you; if you are in Truro or at Threemilestone industrial park you will see empty office buildings.

The NPPF says planning must be ‘realistic’. In a million years, I don’t think Cornwall Council is going to be able to justify the economic and jobs ‘data’ in the 2014 draft local plan; nor to explain how their jobs projection can be sensibly linked to the SHMNA – if they choose to rely on it – nor to the draft LEP strategy, which makes the mistake of using housing numbers as a proxy for jobs and basing itself on the false prospectus which, in the absence of economic intervention, is Cornwall’s only draft local plan.

‘Bring out number weight and measure in a year of dearth’ William Blake, Proverbs of Hell.